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Press Release

Canadian Man Sentenced for Operating $175M Psychic Mass-Mailing Fraud Scheme

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs
Scheme Defrauded Over 1.3 Million Victims in the United States

A Canadian man was sentenced to 10 years in prison today in the Eastern District of New York for perpetrating a massive psychic mass-mailing fraud scheme that stole more than $175 million from more than 1.3 million victims in the United States.

Following a two-week trial, a federal jury convicted Patrice Runner, 57, a Canadian and French citizen, in June 2023 of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and multiple counts of mail fraud and wire fraud.

Runner operated a mass-mailing fraud scheme from 1994 through November 2014. As part of the scheme, Runner sent letters to millions of U.S. consumers, many of whom were elderly and vulnerable. The letters falsely purported to be individualized, personal communications from well-known so-called “psychics” Maria Duval and Patrick Guerin and promised that the recipient had the opportunity to achieve great wealth and happiness with the assistance of the “psychics” in exchange for payment of a fee. Once a victim made a single payment in response to one of the letters, the victim was bombarded with dozens of additional letters, all purporting to be personalized communications from the “psychics” and offering additional services and items for a fee.

Although the scheme’s letters frequently stated that a “psychic” had seen a personalized vision regarding the recipient of the letter, in fact, the scheme sent nearly identical form letters to tens of thousands of victims each week. Runner and his co-conspirators obtained the names of elderly and vulnerable victims by renting and trading mailing lists with other mail fraud schemes. In reality, Duval and Guerin had no role in sending the letters, did not receive responses from the victims, and did not send the additional letters after victims paid money. In fact, no “psychics” played any role in Runner’s operation. Some victims made dozens of payments in response to the fraudulent letters, losing thousands of dollars.

Runner directed the scheme for the entirety of its twenty-year operation, directing co-conspirators, who ran the day-to-day operations of the scheme through a Canadian company. Runner used a series of shell companies registered in Canada and Hong Kong to hide his involvement in the scheme while living in multiple foreign countries, including Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Costa Rica and Spain.

Spanish authorities extradited Runner to the United States to face federal charges in December 2020.

“This case demonstrates that the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch and its partners in the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) are committed to investigating and prosecuting transnational fraud schemes targeting Americans consumers,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The global nature of this scheme meant that we had to rely on law enforcement from around the globe to provide evidence of criminality. We want to thank officials from France, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Canada, and in particular the Canadian Competition Bureau, for providing assistance in securing evidence in this matter, as well as Spain for arresting and extraditing Runner, ensuring that justice could be done.” 

“Patrice Runner’s extravagant lifestyle, born on the backs of millions of older and vulnerable Americans, has come to an end,” said Inspector in Charge Chris Nielsen of the USPIS Philadelphia Division. “The conviction and federal sentencing of Patrice Runner is the appropriate punishment for someone who routinely preyed on vulnerable and elderly Americans. Postal Inspectors will continue to work tirelessly to ensure you can trust that the US Mail is free of these types of predatory schemes.”

Four other co-conspirators previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in connection with this mass-mailing fraud scheme: Maria Thanos, 60, of Montreal, Canada; Philip Lett, 53, of Montreal; Sherry Gore, 73, of Indiana, and Daniel Arnold, 62, of Connecticut.

USPIS investigated the case.

Assistant Director John W. Burke and Trial Attorneys Charles B. Dunn, Rachel Baron and Ann Entwistle of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch prosecuted the case. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided critical assistance in securing Runner’s extradition.

The department urges individuals to be on the lookout for fraudulent “psychic,” lottery, prize notification and sweepstakes scams. If you receive a phone call, letter or email promising a large prize in exchange for a fee, do not respond. Fraudsters often will use official-sounding names or the names of real lotteries or sweepstakes, or pretend to be a government agent purportedly helping to secure a prize.

If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has experienced financial fraud, experienced professionals are standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This Justice Department hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, can provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim and identifying relevant next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with inappropriate agencies and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis. Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET. English, Spanish and other languages are available.

More information about the department’s efforts to help American seniors is available at its Elder Justice Initiative webpage at For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts visit Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC at or at 877-FTC-HELP. The Justice Department provides a variety of resources relating to elder fraud victimization through its Office for Victims of Crime, which can be reached at

Updated April 15, 2024

Consumer Protection
Press Release Number: 24-447